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Background of the Study

The coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) is a tropical plant which belongs to the order Arecales and family Arecaceae. It is widely grown in about 90 tropical regions of the world (Peggy, 2007).Every part can be utilized roots, husk, leaves and fruit. The cavity of the endosperm contains watery fluid called coconut water which begin to form around two months after the natural opening of the inflorescence (Janick and Pull, 2008). It is rich in vitamins, amino acids, minerals and sugar (George, 2001). The coconut water is isotonic in nature. It’s biologically pure with pleasant sweet taste which is of immense health benefits to human (Adams and Bratt, 2000). Coconut water contains both macro and micro minerals which play vital roles in body metabolism. Examples of these minerals are Mg, Na, K, P, Fe, Zn and Cu (Jean et al., 2009). The fluid has long been used in different parts of the world. During the second world war coconut water was used in place of saline solution during emergency surgeries (Aragao, 2000). It is used in controlling hypertension, intestinal problems and weight reduction. Coconut water is also used for intravenous rehydration and electrolyte replacement in a wide range of situation (Ferraz et al., 2003).

The coconut (Cocos nucifera Linn) is a tropical monocotyledon plant which belong to the order Arecaceae and family Palmae (Rurseglove, 1992). It is widely grown in about 90 tropical regions of the world (Peggy, 2007; FAO, 2004). Coconut is called the fruit of life due to its numerous nutritional and health benefits (Khan et al. 2003; Foale, 2003). The cavity of the endosperm contains watery fluid called coconut water (Janick and Paull, 2008) which is rich in vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, minerals, sugars, cytokins and auxins (George, 1993). The water is biologically pure with a pleasant sweet taste and contains important salts which are of immense health benefits to human (Adams and Bratt, 1992; William and Chew, 1979). Analysis of coconut water shows that it contains 95.5% water, 4% carbohydrates, 0.1% fats, protein and mineral salts (Satyavati, 1987; Jean et al. 2009). The fluid has long been a popular drink in different parts of the world, where it is sold fresh or bottled  and has been successfully used as an intravenous fluid in emergency situations and in controlling hypertension (Campbell –Falk et al 2000; Alleyne et al. 2005). A major benefit of coconut water is its ability to rehydrate the body following rigorous exercise probably due to the essential electrolytes it contains. This justifies its wide consumption by athletes and termed as a natural sport drink (Campos et al.1996; Magda, 1992). Studies have also shown that coconut water contains folate (Goh and Koren 2008), phytohormones (Wu and Hu, 2009), cytokins and auxins (Robert and Frim, 2009; Haberer and Kieber, 2002) and quite a number of other bioactive compounds which are of medicinal importance and promising potentials in improving human health.

The endosperm is semisolid and jelly-like in young coconut but as the coconut matures, it becomes solid and fibrous, developing into the firmer coconut meat from which coconut oil is extracted. The meat may also be grated and mixed with water to make coconut milk, fried to make coconut snack or used in cooking and as a substitute for cow’s milk. Coconut milk is different from coconut water. The later is the natural aqueous fluid contained in the endosperm while the former is the liquid extracted from ground or grated coconut meat using water as solvent. The Coconut meat contains an average of 48.0% -62% moisture, 59% volatile matter, 35.5%  oil and 16.5% oil free residue (Nathaniel, 1960; Solangi and Iqbal, 2011). Although coconut meat contains less fat than many oil seeds and nuts such as almonds, it is noted for its high amount of medium chain saturated fat (USDA, 2008). About 90% of the fat found in coconut meat is saturated, a proportion exceeding that of foods such as lard, butter and tallow. Like most nut meats, it contains less sugar and more protein than popular fruits such as banana, apples and oranges; it is relatively high in some mineral such as iron, phosphorous and zinc (Santoso et al. 1999).

Despite the numerous benefits of coconut fruit, the street coconut sellers in most parts of Nigeria only sell the coconut meat and discard the coconut water. Most consumers also eat the raw meat or extract it to get coconut milk or coconut oil.

Statement of Problem

The coconut fruit is a fibrous drupe consisting of a thin hard skin (exocarp), a thick layer of fibrous mesocarp (husk), the hard endocarp (shell), the white endosperm (kernel) and the large cavity filled with liquid (water) when immature. The exocarp is usually green, sometimes bronze. The fruit shape vary from elongated to spherical and weigh between 850 to 370g when mature. The water is a clear liquid found in the interior of coconut. In a healthy and undamaged coconut, the water is sterile. Its sodium and potassium content makes it an ideal drink for rehydration. The characteristics of the coconut water changes as the coconut ages. A very young coconut (i.e. about 3-5 months, before the endosperm begins to form), has tasteless water that is somewhat astringent. Water from a mature coconut is slightly salty to the taste, but when the coconut grows well on land, the salty taste disappears. The best time to harvest a coconut for drinking is at age 6-7months, just as the jelly-like endosperm begins to form. At this stage the water has maximum sweetness and low acidity.

Many foods possess a variety of health benefits and this may lead one to think that all foods are functional foods. Functional foods are defined by Health Canada as foods that are generally consumed in the diet which provides additional health benefits and may lessen the risk of ailments beyond the normal nutritional outcome. Food that are natural or products that are modified or had substances added, removed or combined are considered functional foods (Poulsen 1999).

Coconut water is a natural nutritious beverage that is widely used by athletes, elderly and normal persons. It is considered a functional food or nutraceutical as it contains several biologically active components and possesses heart and liver protective properties as well as hypo- lipidemic and anti- hypertensive properties (Preetha et al, 2013). The popularity of functional foods has increased worldwide today due to its countless health claims. In addition, the demand for functional foods has grown over the years due to an upsurge in non-communicable diseases throughout the world (Saat et al, 2002). The Health Belief Model explains that consumers are more willing to select healthier choices or opt for functional foods if they think it may lessen their exposure to diseases.

Additionally, despite the demand for functional foods it was observed that before consuming a product individual consider factors such as the added benefit to be received, the nutritional value as well as the cost, convenience and taste of the product (Verbeke 2008). Coconut water the clear liquid found inside of a coconut (Cocos nucifer) has recently emerged as a functional food and commonly known as one of creation‟s greatest multipurpose substances (Adkins et al. 2006). Some constituents of coconut water are sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phyto-hormones. This invigorating drink is extensively consumed by many individuals due to these distinctive components (Yong et al. 2009). However, due to limited studies that have been done in relation to the level of awareness on coconut water and functional foods by consumers, there is the need to investigate some mineral content of coconut water.

Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of this research work was to analyze some mineral content of coconut water.

Significance of the Study:

Healthier food choices are associated with a higher life expectancy. Thus, participating and adapting to healthy eating habits by consumers such as balanced diet, reduced fatty intake, moderate alcohol consumption and reduced sugars can help improve their well – being. In Nigeria, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH‟s) Health Report Card 2011these healthy eating practices can reduce the amount of deaths associated to chronic non- communicable ailments since, consuming healthier foods and food products will lessen the development of risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and strokes that may end in death. Additionally, it is known that coconut water can be used in a variety of ways however consumer knowledge of its countless benefits is uncertain and there are limited studies in relation to the perception and acceptance of functional foods in Nigeria. Thus, there is the need to assess consumer knowledge, perception and acceptance of coconut water as a functional food among consumers in Nigeria.

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